The Fabulous Animal Jamboree
By Paul Magrs
Deidre was flattered by Maude’s invitation, but she was nervous, too. ‘What if it doesn’t even happen anymore? What’s if it’s all a false hope?’
Maude drew herself up as far as her glass case would allow. ‘It better not be.’
It was very late at night. Once the museum was empty of human beings and the lights were low, it was the usual thing for Deidre to hop over her little barrier and toddle along the hallways to visit her friends. In recent weeks the Dodo had become quite pally with Maude. Maude had been kept in storage for a good many years and only recently had the museum authorities rediscovered her, dragged her out, and put her proudly on display in a case at the top of the stairs.
‘What’s a Tigon when it’s at home?’ Deidre had asked, the first time she happened by. She squinted at the Maude’s information plate.
Maude was resplendent with pale gold fur and the faintest, most elegant stripes. She held her head proudly erect and crossed her hefty paws, sprawling comfortably in her cabinet as all the stuffed animals came by to examine her. ‘My mother was an African lioness and by dad was a Manchurian Tiger,’ Maude announced.
‘A Mancunian Tiger?’ asked Deidre. She was sometimes slow on the uptake. ‘Hey, chuck, you’ve got all the animals coming by to see you. You’re causing quite a stir. And they’re all mad jealous of you. You’re so much more glamorous than that humdrum lot. All those plain old monkeys and boring bears.’ The Dodo gave a honking laugh.
Maude had become quite fond of her new friend. The Dodo was squat, waddlesome, foolish and slightly pretentious, but she was frank in her admiration of the Tigon. She had taken to visiting Maude nightly, filling her in on who was who in the museum, and the little bit she had gleaned about the world outside its dark, castle-like walls. She was pleased to show off her knowledge to Maude.
‘I suppose an awful lot has changed since I was put in that cupboard,’ Maude sighed. ‘1949 it was…’
Deidre squawked. ‘That’s yonks ago! So much has changed! Almost everything!’
Even if the city’s buildings and people had changed completely, and the way that humans lived, and even if the museum and all its displays were different, Maude was sure that the Christmas Jamboree must still happen every year. That couldn’t be changed, could it? One night she cut through Deidre’s chatter with a question: ‘Did you ever go to the Annual Fabulous Animal Jamboree?’
‘What? The what?’ blinked the Dodo.
‘Paris on Christmas Eve!’ Maude growled, astonished that the bird didn’t seem to know what she was talking about.
‘You’ll have to explain,’ said the Dodo.
‘Really? You’ve never been?’ Maude’s golden eyes were wide with amazement. ‘The annual gathering of all the most fabulous stuffed beasts in the world? The rarest, most fabulous and preferably extinct creatures from all over the globe converge on Paris for a great big knees-up. It was always the event of the year. And you’ve never even heard of it…?’
Deidre hung her head. ‘I’ve never been anywhere. Not since I was stuffed and put on my little podium.’
‘We’ll have to do something about that,’ Maude said fiercely.